Kyle Rittenhouse, the 18-year-old charged with killing two people and wounding a third, took the stand Wednesday at his homicide trial in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Rittenhouse, who was 17 at the time of the shooting, claims he acted in self-defense during protests against police violence in August 2020.
Rittenhouse broke into tears when his attorneys were questioning him about why he fatally shot the first victim. "I didn't do anything wrong, I was defending myself," he told the court.
But the prosecution attempted to discredit the core of his defense by questioning why a teenager who illegally possessed an AR-15 style rifle would feel that his life was in danger. Thomas Binger, the lead prosecutor, tried to paint Rittenhouse as an armed threat.
"You're telling us that you felt like you were about to die, right? But when you point the gun at someone else, that's going to make them feel like they're about to die, right? That's what you wanted him to feel," Binger said.
Flustered and on the verge of tears for the second time, Rittenhouse claimed one of the victims could have "ran away instead of trying to take my gun from me. It didn't stop him."
The trial was stopped twice after the prosecutor's line of questioning angered the judge. "I said that you were over the line or close to or over the line commenting on the defendant's pretrial silence, which is a well-known rule," said Bruce Schroeder, of the Kenosha County Circuit Court.
Rittenhouse was charged as an adult with two counts of first-degree homicide and one count of attempted homicide. He also faces charges of recklessly endangering the safety of two other victims, and possessing a weapon while under the age of 18.
Prosecutors conclude cross-examining Rittenhouse
After showing several videos of Kyle Rittenhouse fatally shooting his second victim, Anthony Huber, and his third, Gaige Grosskreutz, who was injured in the arm, prosecutors attempted to dismantle the teenager's claims of self-defense.
Rittenhouse said Hubert struck him with his skateboard before he fatally shot him in the chest. He claimed that shooting Hubert "would no longer be a threat to my safety."
After shooting Huber, Rittenhouse opened fire on Grosskreutz, who admitted to having a handgun in his hand. The prosecutor questioned how the handgun was more of a threat than Rittenhouse's own rifle. Rittenhouse attempted to justify his actions by explaining that Grosskreutz was moving toward him with the gun.
Rittenhouse shot Grosskreutz and said he tried to find police to turn himself in — but heard Grosskreutz calling for a medic.
After the lead prosecutor concluded his questions, Rittenhouse stepped off the stand after nearly a full day of questioning. The jury was then dismissed for the rest of the day.
Rittenhouse claims Joseph Rosenbaum would have taken his weapon and killed him
Close to tears, Rittenhouse tries to explain why he killed the first victim: "He would've used it and killed me with it and probably killed more people."
In a tense line of questioning from the state prosecutor, Rittenhouse explained why he fired the four shots that ultimately killed Joseph Rosenbaum.
"If I would've let Mr. Rosenbaum take my firearm from me, he would've used it and killed me with it and probably killed more people," Rittenhouse said.
Thomas Binger, the prosecutor, questioned why he felt threatened when Rosenbaum did not physically touch his body.
Flustered and on the verge of tears, Rittenhouse claimed, "He could have ran away instead of trying to take my gun from me. It didn't stop him."
The prosecutor wanted to understand why Rittenhouse wanted to scare Rosenbaum: "You felt you were about to die... That's what you wanted him to feel."
"'No!" Rittenhouse exclaimed. "I pointed the gun at him so he would stop chasing me."
"I didn't want to have to kill Mr. Rosenbaum," Rittenhouse said. When asked why he continued firing after the first shot, he said, "I continued to shoot until he was no longer a threat to me."
The state then showed a video of Rittenhouse falsely telling the crowd that Rosenbaum had a gun. On the stand, he admitted that Rosenbaum was not armed.
Defense lawyers argue zooming in on shooting video could alter the image
Defense attorneys objected to prosecutors showing a video of Rittenhouse shooting Rosenbaum, the first person he fatally shot that night. They claimed zooming in on the video, which was being displayed on an iPad, could potentially alter the image.
The judge was unaware whether pinching and zooming in on the video to enhance the view would cause any distortion and told the prosecutors that they should find an expert to speak to the technology.
"Is the image in its virginal state?" Judge Schroeder asked.
Prosecutor Thomas Binger challenged the objection, saying zooming in on Apple products is now a fact of everyday life, whether on an iPad or iPhone.
After a recess, the state showed the video but did not appear to zoom in, instead opting to move the screen so that all the parties, including the jury, could see it.
Rittenhouse admits he's not a certified EMT
The prosecutor played video clips from an interview Rittenhouse gave the night of the shooting. When a journalist asks if he is an EMT, Rittenhouse says yes — which turned out to be a lie.
Rittenhouse on Wednesday acknowledged that he is not and was not an EMT.
While Rittenhouse participated in EMT cadet training with the Antioch Fire Department, he said he was not training to become an EMT nor was he permitted to fight fires.
Earlier Wednesday, Rittenhouse said he responded to a car dealership where the protests were taking place to put out fires. He also claimed to help two people who were wounded at the scene.
The defense makes a motion for a mistrial
The defense said it was making a motion for a mistrial with prejudice, meaning Rittenhouse could not be re-tried. The request came after the prosecutor questioned Rittenhouse over his silence following the arrest.
The defense claimed the prosecution acted in "bad faith" because Rittenhouse's choice was protected under the Fifth Amendment.
However, the prosecutor, Thomas Binger, pointed to several media interviews where Rittenhouse discussed the shooting following his arrest. Binger noted the teen's time on the stand is his first time to present his side of the story.
The judge warned Binger of his actions. "You're an experienced trial attorney," Judge Schroeder said sternly. "Come on!"
The judge ultimately decided to take the motion under advisement and give the prosecution more time to respond. "When you said you were acting in good faith, I don't believe that."
The judge also denied the prosecutor's request to show the jury a photo of Rittenhouse posing with members of the public at a bar with a T-shirt that read "Free as F***," four months after the shooting while on bond for the homicide trial.
Judge scolds prosecutor over questioning: "Don't get brazen with me"
After the prosecutor, Thomas Binger, began questioning Rittenhouse about whether or not he was aware he could use deadly force to protect property versus his own life, the defense objected, leading the judge to briefly excuse the jury.
Judge Schroeder scolded the state for trying to introduce a line of questioning that they had previously barred.
"I was astonished when you began your examination on post-arrest silence," Schroeder said. He later warned the prosecutor, "Don't get brazen with me."
"I believe there is a central part of this case that Rosenbaum is making threats that he has no point in carrying out," Binger explained. "I am attempting to impeach the defendant on his beliefs."
In response to the line of questioning, the defense threatened to file a mistrial motion.
Prosecution questions why Rittenhouse had a gun as a minor
The prosecution is questioning why Rittenhouse was in possession of the AR-15 style rifle while he was a minor. Rittenhouse acknowledged that he could not legally possess the weapon and that a friend purchased it for him.
When asked why he specifically chose the weapon, Rittenhouse said, "It looked cool."
The state also questioned his claimed membership as an emergency medical technician with the Antioch fire department. The state clarified that he was not training to become an EMT, nor was he permitted to fight fires. Rittenhouse admitted to lying about his qualifications.
Rittenhouse describes fatally shooting second victim and wounding a third
Rittenhouse said Anthony Huber struck him in the back of his head with his skateboard. After falling to the ground, Rittenhouse said a group of people surrounded him, and he pointed his gun toward them.
He said most of the group backed off, with the exception of Huber. He claimed Huber kicked him in the face, and then struck him in the neck with his skateboard. Rittenhouse claimed Hubert reached for his weapon, an AR-15 style rifle, before he fired one shot.
The teen said he then lowered his weapon and spotted Grosskreutz. He said he noticed that Grosskreutz had a pistol in his hand.
Still, on the ground, Rittenhouse said he fired one shot at Grosskreutz, wounding him.
He then attempted to turn himself in before police shouted, "Get the f*** back or you're going to get pepper-sprayed. Go home. Go home. Go home."
Rittenhouse said he returned to the car dealership and said, "I was in shock. I was freaking out. I was just attacked, my head was spinning."
His friend then drove him home to Antioch, Illinois, and he went to his local police department to report that he was involved in the shooting.
"I was vomiting and having panic attacks," Rittenhouse said, describing being at the police station. "I couldn't think clearly."
"I was in shock": Rittenhouse describes shooting first victim
After returning from the 10-minute break, Rittenhouse continued to describe the moments before fatally shooting Joseph Rosenbaum.
Rittenhouse said he was running away from Rosenbaum. As he turned around, he said, he saw Rosenbaum "gaining speed" on him as he ran toward him with his arms out.
"I remember his hand on the barrel of my gun," Rittenhouse claimed. "There was no space for me to continue to run to."
Rittenhouse said that's when he fired about four shots before attempting to help Rosenbaum.
Rittenhouse claimed he heard people saying, "Get his ass. Get him, Get him." He said he wanted to turn himself in to law enforcement but a mob began chasing him. The teen said people were screaming at him as he attempt to find the police, but said, "I didn't do anything wrong, I was defending myself."
Rittenhouse becomes emotional describing the moments before shooting
Rittenhouse, 18, became emotional on the stand, describing the moments before he fatally shot two people and wounded a third.
Rittenhouse, who was 17 years old at the time of the shooting, was leading up to describing his interaction with Joseph Rosenbaum, a man he shot and killed, illustrating Rosenbaum as the aggressor who "ambushed me."
Rittenhouse said he did not notice Rosenbaum until he ran out from behind the car. He was on his way to the parking lot of a car dealership to put out fires when he heard someone say, "Burn in hell." Rittenhouse said he responded, "Friendly! Friendly! Friendly!"
At that point, Joshua Ziminski, who has since been charged with disorderly conduct, steps toward him with a pistol in his hand, causing Rittenhouse to drop the fire extinguisher he was holding and takes a step back. Over his shoulder, Rittenhouse said he saw Rosenbaum running from the right side, saying he was "cornered."
"That's where I run," Rittenhouse described the moments before the shooting but struggled to speak through tears.
His attorney, who was leading the questioning, instructed his client to "Take a deep breath, Kyle."
Kenosha County Circuit Court Judge Bruce Schroeder called for a 10-minute break just as Rittenhouse began to break down. "You can just relax sir," the judge said.
Rittenhouse says he provided medical help to two people during the protests
Rittenhouse said he provided medical help to two people during the protests. The first: a woman who sprained or twisted her ankle. Rittenhouse said he wrapped her ankle and directed her to the nearby hospital.
The teen said he offered help despite being pepper-sprayed beforehand.
Rittenhouse also said he provided aid to a person who suffered some effects of a thrown "chemical bomb." Rittenhouse said he gave him water, helped him breathe and flushed his eyes out.
Rittenhouse said he was pepper-sprayed by someone in the crowd, adding that he did not retaliate.